Iceland is notorious for being a book-loving nation, with over 1,300 books published each year. For a language spoken by only 340,000 people, that is a remarkable number. Iceland’s love for the written language has a long history that goes all the way back to the settlement of the country. Here are the best independent bookstores in Reykjavik.
Bókavarðan is one of the most unique bookstores in all of Europe. American chess champion Bobby Fischer, who migrated to Iceland in 2005, was a regular at this place. It offers a variety of publications such as 1950’s LIFE magazines, celebrity portraits, Icelandic cookbooks, and extremely unique Icelandic books to name a few. The window display is always a treat with a specially laid out theme that captures some by-gone Icelandic era.
This quiet wooden interior café is located in downtown Reykjavik, just across from the Reykjavik Art Museum, Hafnarhús. A variety of carefully selected books relating to cooking, interior design, Icelandic and Nordic culture, craft books, and children’s books line the shelves. In the windows that look out over scenic city views, cozy leather armchairs and tables offer a place to curl up with a book and a drink from the café, which also serves light snacks.
Bókakjallarinn, or The Book Basement, is a hidden gem on the main shopping street of Laugavegur, with all kinds of books on offer such as comics, magazines, strange and rare Icelandic books, as well as records and CDs (mostly Icelandic). The books are all displayed on top of old book printing machines that are out of commission. The prices are very fair and you will definitely get a laugh out of the charismatic owner.
Kolaportið can feel like another world. Located downtown with a view of the harbor, this former coal port is where Icelanders come to sell their wares when moving house, moving out of the country, or just spring cleaning their closets. One can find just about anything from rare books and jade Buddha statues to kimonos and handmade jewelry from Kenya. Kolaportið is only open on the weekends from 11am to 5pm. There is one main bookseller who is impossible to miss. He can be found there every weekend taking up an entire corner filled with Icelandic classics and antique books covering many rows of tables.